I had the joy of having to pick Deborah Needleman’s brain a little, and I’m so happy to have the ability to share her advice with you. Needleman has been the founding editor of the late and much-missed domino magazine, also established the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal, and now edits WSJ Magazine.
Her latest book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home: The best way to decorate and Live Well, celebrates having fun with decor and allowing your personality shine when you decorate. It is filled with attainable techniques to decorate and personalize the house, and shows us our houses can help make us more gracious hosts. Needleman is a huge proponent of”cozification,” comprising bits of humor, and unexpected quirks which make rooms exceptional.
The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman
Q. The charming illustrations by Virginia Johnson are still an unexpected element which makes this novel unique and fun. What gave you the idea to forego all the customary styled-room photography and proceed with illustrations which portray actual rooms?
A. I wanted the book for a lovely and special object in itself, and Virginia’s job is magic. Additionally, I thought illustrations would help readers focus on the principles and ideas in the play at the rooms, instead of getting bogged down in the particulars of the specific things which people have.
Portrait of Needleman by Virginia Johnson
Q. That decorators of yesteryear will be sitting at the dining table at your dream dinner party? What will your centerpiece look like?
A. Ahh! What fun. I’d have the uber-chic Billy Baldwin, the profoundly stylish American, Nancy Lancaster, who co-founded Colefax and Fowler. I’d invite the decorator Syrie Maugham when she’d come with her husband Somerset (although I believe he loathed her.) Oh, and I’d love the idiosyncratic Elsie de Wolfe and her lady friend to join. I have a feeling they would be great pleasure.
The celebrity would be done by the brilliant floral designer (because why can not I bring her back from the dead too?!) Constance Spry. The arrangement will be in a long, low urn and include a mix of cultivated flowers with wildflowers and weeds and even vegetables that she effortlessly mixed into her exquisite arrangements.
The table would be set only but with lovely pieces, and there would be plenty of wine, and the room would be dark and lit mainly with candlelight. And that I would not invite David Hicks, who might have been the most brilliant of them all, since there’s a possibility he could be a pretentious bore.
Q. I charge Domino with bringing back the fashionable bar setup that we’re seeing everywhere these days. Have you got these effortless service places set up in your houses? In that case, do you use a bar cart, console, or other dining table as the base?
A. The drinks table to me epitomized the sort of thing I needed to domino to draw in the past into our own lives — a sense of graciousness, of hospitality, of grown-up parties, of charm and of sparkle! The drinks cart may be the sign of domino! We did a story on them at the first or second matter. I thought how lovely it would be to be the kind of person who comes home after work and fixes a drink and chats with my spouse around our days. Obviously, that never happens. Nonetheless, it is perfect for when folks come over.
In my flat I have a drinks tray below an old dining table, and at our weekend house, we’ve got an drinks cart which sits in front a window. On the summer, I love Aperol Spritzes: aperol, prosecco and a piece of orange (ideally blood sugar ). For the holidays, I like champagne on ice, but I know that is quite frowned upon by individuals who know better.
Q. A good deal of individuals get layout paralysis and fear breaking some set of rules. What are a couple of easy things that they can do in order to dip their toes into quirkiness and cozification so that they can begin to let their personalities shine via their decor?
A. We are so inundated with pictures of gorgeous rooms that decorating can be quite daunting.
A little bit of quirk is something houses will need to show you do not take everything too seriously. It will make you happy to have odd, little private things around, and is so lovely for guests, and it places them at their ease more quickly than if what’s just-so.
If you have kids in your own life, framework a couple of things they have created and hang them alongside other more’important’ pictures. Simply take a few snapshots you like and then set them in the kind of frames you would ordinarily book for more formal pictures. Or maybe just sip a snapshot or two at among items on your mantle.
I find little animal figurines to be quite’jollifying,’ and they can be set anywhere. Just a little assortment of anything grouped together is fun to see. As for’cozifying’ one’s house, find a lovely patterned quilt or throw drape it on the back of the couch to divide the major expanse of solid color that is most sofas.
Make certain it shares at least one color with other things in your room. And have a bunch of soft cushions on your couch and one at the back of every armchair. When blending patterns collectively, like using a group of cushions, attempt to make sure that there is at least one color linking one to another, and attempt to vary the scale of the patterns.
Q. I really like the way that you encourage private style in the restroom. Is it a terrible faux pax I Have a replica of Loni Anderson: My Life in High Definition and a classic replica of Barbara Walters: How to Speak to Anybody About Anything on screen in my guest bathroom? Your opinion on this matter is of the utmost importance to me personally.
A. That’s even more private and pressing compared to TV-out-in-the-open-or-hidden-away dilemma! I used to believe it was gross for folks to have reading thing in the toilet since it just causes you to think of them sitting on the can for way too long!
Then I went into Nora Ephron’s guest toilet and there was a shelf over the toilet with books on it and I thought it was THE most magical thing I ever watched. Very cheery and private.
I believe you have it exactly right — funny little books which are funny, not a large stack of magazines and papers. That said, I can not say you’d never find that at my house.
Q. I notice you quoting a great deal of my preferred layout writers. What are some of the favorite decorating tomes you’d recommend to someone starting a style book collection?
A. It is unbelievably interesting and helpful to acquire a sense of the background of decorating to learn from the 20th century’s pioneering style icons. So much of what we believe is unique to our time has been initially done decades ago.
These older books are among my favorites, true classics (many are out of print but findable online ): The House in Good Taste by Elsie deWolfe (1914, but 2004 reissue)…
On Living — With Taste by David Hicks – $36
… David Hicks on Living–With Taste (1969) and…
David Hicks on Home Decoration
… and On Home Decoration (1972) …
Billy Baldwin Decorates: A Book of Practical Decorating Ideas
… Billy Baldwin Decorates (1972) …
Mark Hampton on Decorating – $4
… Mark Hampton on Decorating (1989) and…
Colefax & Fowler: The Very Best in English Interior Decoration
… Colefax and Fowler: The Very Best in English Interior Decoration by Chester Jones (1989).
Make Certain to pick up a copy of The Perfectly Imperfect Home to your layout lover on your gift list.
The Joyful Home Project
Tray Chic: Turn an Regular Item Into Decor
10 Great Coffee Table Books